THE WORSHIP OF ISHI.
In Hosea ii. 16 we find this remarkable statement:–“And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call Me Ishi, and shalt no more call Me Baali”; and with this we may couple the statement in Isaiah lxii. 4:–“Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah; for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” In both these passages we find a change of name; and since a name stands for something which corresponds to it, and in truth only amounts to a succinct description, the fact indicated in these texts is a change of condition answering to the change of name. Now the change from Baali to Ishi indicates an important alteration in the relation between the Divine Being and the worshipper; but since the Divine Being cannot change, the altered relation must result from a change in the stand-point of the worshipper: and this can only come from a new mode of looking at the Divine, that is, from a new order of thought regarding it. Baali means Lord, and Ishi means husband, and so the change in relation is that of a female slave who is liberated and married to her former master. We could not have a more perfect analogy. Relatively to the Universal Spirit the individual soul is esoterically feminine, as I have pointed out in “Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning,” because its function is that of the receptive and formative.
This is necessarily inherent in the nature of the creative process. But the individual’s development as the specializing medium of the Universal Spirit will depend entirely upon his own conception of his relation to it. So long as he only regards it as an arbitrary power, a sort of slave owner, he will find himself in the position of a slave driven by an inscrutable force, he knows not whither or for what purpose. He may worship such a God, but his worship is only the worship of fear and ignorance, and there is no personal interest in the matter except to escape some dreaded punishment. Such a worshipper would gladly escape from his divinity, and his worship, when analyzed, will be found to be little else than disguised hatred. This is the natural result of a worship based upon UNEXPLAINED traditions instead of intelligible principles, and is the very opposite of that worship in Spirit and in truth which Jesus speaks of as the true worship. But when the light begins to break in upon us, all this becomes changed. We see that a system of terrorism cannot give expression to the Divine Spirit, and we realize the truth of St. Paul’s words, “He hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” As the true nature of the relation between the individual mind and the Universal Mind becomes clearer, we find it to be one of mutual action and re-action, a perfect reciprocity which cannot be better symbolized than by the relation between an affectionate husband and wife. Everything is done from love and nothing from compulsion, there is perfect confidence on both sides, and both are equally indispensable to each other.
It is simply the carrying out of the fundamental maxim that the Universal cannot act on the plane of the Particular except through the Particular; only this philosophical axiom develops into a warm living intercourse. Now this is the position of the soul which is indicated by the name Hephzibah. In common with all other words derived from the Semitic root “hafz” it implies the idea of guarding, just as in the East a hasfiz is one who guards the letter of the Koran by having the whole book by heart, and in many similar expressions. Hephzibah may therefore be translated as “a guarded one,” thus recalling the New Testament description of those who are “guarded into salvation.” It is precisely this conception of being guarded by a superior power that distinguishes the worship of Ishi from that of Baali. A special relation has been established between the Divine Spirit and the individual soul, one of absolute confidence and personal intercourse. This does not require any departure from the general law of the universe, but is due to that specializing of the law through the presentation of special conditions personal to the individual, of which I have spoken before. But all the time there has been no change in the Universal Spirit, the only change has been in the mental attitude of the individual–he has come into a new thought, a clearer perception of God. He has faced the questions, What is God? Where is God? How does God work? and he has found the answer in the apostolic statement that God is “over all, through all, and in all,” and he realises that “God” is the root of his (the individual’s) own being, ever present IN him, ever working THROUGH him, and universally present around him.
This realization of the true relation between the Originating Spirit and the individual mind is what is esoterically spoken of as the Mystical Marriage in which the two have ceased to be separate and have become one. As a matter of fact they always were one, but since we can apprehend things only from the stand-point of our own consciousness, it is our recognition of the fact that makes it a practical reality for ourselves. But an intelligent recognition will never make a confusion of the two parts of which the whole consists, and will never lead the individual to suppose that he is handling a blind force or that a blind force is handling him. He will neither dethrone God, nor lose himself by absorption in deity, but he will recognize the reciprocity of the Divine and the human as the natural and logical outcome of the essential conditions of the creative process. And what is the Whole which is thus created? It is our conscious PERSONALITY; and therefore whatever we draw from the Universal Spirit acquires in us the quality of personality. It is that process of differentiation of the universal into the particular of which I have so often spoken, which, by a rude analogy, we may compare to the differentiation of the universal electric fluid into specific sorts of power by its passage through suitable apparatus. It is for this reason that relatively to ourselves the Universal Spirit must necessarily assume a personal aspect, and that the aspect which it will assume will be in exact correspondence with our own conception of it.
This is in accordance with mental and spiritual laws inherent in our own being, and it is on this account that the Bible seeks to build up our conception of God on such lines as will set us free from all fear of evil, and thus leave us at liberty to use the creative power of our thought affirmatively from the stand-point of a calm and untroubled mind. This stand-point can only be reached by passing beyond the range of the happenings of the moment, and this can only be done by the discovery of our immediate relation to the undifferentiated source of all good. I lay stress on these words “immediate” and “undifferentiated” because in them is contained the secret of the whole position. If we could not draw immediately from the Universal Spirit our receiving would be subject to the limitations of the channel through which it reached us; and if the force which we receive were not undifferentiated in itself it could not take appropriate form in our own minds and become to each of us just what we require it to be. It is this power of the human soul to differentiate limitlessly from the Infinite that we are apt to overlook, but as we come to realize that the soul is itself a reflection and image of the Infinite Spirit–and a clear recognition of the cosmic creative process shows that it cannot be anything else–we find that it must possess this power, and that-in fact it is our possession of this power which is the whole raison d’etre of the creative process: if the human soul did not possess an unlimited power of differentiation from the Infinite, then the Infinite would not be reflected in it, and consequently the Infinite Spirit would find no outlet for its CONSCIOUS recognition of itself as the Life, Love, and Beauty which it is. We can never too deeply ponder the old esoteric definition of Spirit as “the Power which knows itself”: the secret of all things, past, present, and future is contained in these few words. The self -recognition or self-contemplation of Spirit is the primary movement out of which all creation proceeds, and the attainment in the individual of a fresh centre for self-recognition is what the Spirit GAINS in the process–this GAIN accruing to the Spirit is what is referred to in the parables where the lord is represented as receiving increase from his servants.
When the individual perceives this relation between himself and Infinite Spirit, he finds that he has been raised from a position of slavery to one of reciprocity. The Spirit cannot do without him any more than he can do without the Spirit: the two are as necessary to each other as the two poles of an electric battery. The Spirit is the unlimited essence of Love, Wisdom, and Power, all three in one undifferentiated and waiting to be differentiated by APPROPRIATION, that is, by the individual CLAIMING to be the channel of their differentiation. It only requires the claim to be made with the recognition that by the Law of Being it is bound to be answered, and the right feeling, the right seeing, and the right working for the particular matter we have in hand will flow in quite naturally. Our old enemies, doubt and fear, may seek to bring us back under bondage to Baali, but our new stand-point for the recognition of the All-originating Spirit as being absolutely unified with ourselves must always be kept resolutely in mind; for, short of this, we are not working on the creative level–we are creating, indeed, for we can never divest ourselves of our creative power, but we are creating in the image of the old limiting and destructive conditions, and this is merely perpetuating the cosmic Law of Averages, which is just what the individual has to rise superior to. The creative level is where new laws begin to manifest themselves in a new order of conditions, something transcending our past experiences and thus bringing about a real advance; for it is no advance only to go on in the same old round even if we kept at it for centuries: it is the steady go-ahead nature of the Spirit that has made the world of to-day an improvement upon the world of the pterodactyl and the icthiosaurus, and we must look for the same forward movement of the Spirit from its new starting-point in ourselves. Now it is this special, personal, and individual relation of the Spirit to ourselves which is typified by the names Ishi and Hephzibah. From this stand-point we may say that as the individual wakes up to the oneness with the Spirit, the Spirit wakes up to the same thing.
It becomes conscious of itself through the consciousness of the individual, and thus is solved the paradox of individual self-recognition by the Universal Spirit, without which no new-creative power could be exercised and all things would continue to proceed in the old merely cosmic order. It is of course true that in the merely generic order the Spirit must be present in every form of Life, as the Master pointed out when He said that not a sparrow falls to the ground without “the Father.” But as the sparrows He alluded to had been shot and were on sale at a price which shows that this was the fate of a good many of them, we see here precisely that stage of manifestation where the Spirit has not woke up to individual self-recognition, and remains at the lower level of self-recognition, that of the generic or race-spirit. The Master’s comment, “Ye are of more value than many sparrows” points out this difference: in us the generic creation has reached the level which affords the conditions for the waking up of the Spirit to self-recognition in the Individual. And we must bear in mind that all this is perfectly natural. There is no posing or straining after effect about it. If YOU have to pump up the Life, who is going to put the Life into you to pump it? Therefore it is spontaneous or nothing. That is why the Bible speaks of it as the free gift of God. It cannot be anything else.
You cannot originate the originating force; it must originate you: but what you can do is to distribute it. Therefore immediately you experience any sense of friction be sure there is something wrong somewhere; and since God can never change, you may be sure that the friction is being caused by some error in your own thinking–you are limiting the Spirit in some way: set to work to find out what it is. It is always LIMITING the Spirit that does this. You are tying it down to conditions somewhere, saying it is bound by reason of some existing forms. The remedy is to go back to the original starting point of the Cosmic Creation and ask, Where were the pre-existing forms that dictated to the Spirit then? Then because the Spirit never changes it is STILL THE SAME, and is just as independent of existing conditions now as it was in the beginning; and so we must pass over all existing conditions, however apparently adverse, and go straight to the Spirit as the originator of new forms and new conditions. This is real New Thought, for it does not trouble about the old things, but is going straight ahead from where we are now. When we do this, just trusting the Spirit, and not laying down the particular details of its action–just telling it what we want without dictating HOW we are to get it– we shall find that things will open out more and more clearly day by day both on the inner and the outer plane. Remember that the Spirit is alive and working here and now, for if ever the Spirit is to get from the past into the future it must be by passing through the present; therefore what you have to do is to acquire the habit of living direct -from the Spirit here and now. You will soon find that this is a matter of personal intercourse, perfectly natural and not requiring any abnormal conditions for its production. You just treat the Spirit as you would any other kind-hearted sensible person, remembering that it is always there–“closer than hands and feet,” as Tennyson says–and you will gradually begin to appreciate its reciprocity as a very practical fact indeed.
This is the relation of Hephzibah to Ishi, and is that worship in Spirit and in truth which needs neither the temple in Jerusalem nor yet in Samaria for its acceptance, for the whole world is the temple of the Spirit and you yourself its sanctuary. Bear this in mind, and remember that nothing is too great or too small, too interior or too external, for the Spirit’s recognition and operation, for the Spirit is itself both the Life and the Substance of all things and it is also Self-recognition from the stand-point of your own individuality; and therefore, because the Self-recognition of Spirit is the Life of the creative process, you will, by simply trusting the Spirit to work according to its own nature, pass more and more completely into that New Order which proceeds from the thought of Him who says, “Behold I make all things new.”